HC Deb 23 February 1978 vol 944 cc1692-7
Q1. Mr. Radice

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 23rd February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Radice

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in view of the continuing recession in world trade there is now an increasing danger of a slide into beggar-my-neighbour protectionism? Does he agree that a major new initiative to expand world demand is now urgently needed?

The Prime Minister

I have made clear the Government's view on this matter on a number of occasions. Over the last 12 months Britain has solved a number of its own problems and can look forward to a better year in a number of ways. However, the world situation has been deteriorating while ours has been improving. The result is—and this concerns especially unemployment—that the upturn that we were hoping for in world trade, which would help our exports and, therefore, jobs, is not coming. I am constantly in touch with a number of overseas leaders about this, to encourage a faster rate of growth in the world.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Prime Minister find time today to consider the effect of his Government's policies, which have reduced the take-home pay of the average worker by £7 a week while providing payments of up to £10,000 to some of those at Swan Hunter who have refused the jobs that were offered to them? Does he think that this is a sensible use of scarce resources?

The Prime Minister

I notice that the right hon. Lady, as always, is against anything which helps to create or keep jobs. The truth is—I am astonished at her effrontery—that if her policies were carried through, according to my estimate, at least 1 million jobs would go in the very near future.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister has either unwittingly or deliberately refused to answer the question, which related to redundancy payments to those who have refused jobs. Does the right hon. Gentleman think it better that those who work hard should have a more raw deal than those who refuse to work?

The Prime Minister

That is a series of totally irrelevant questions—the kind of pious platitude to which we are becoming accustomed from the right hon. Lady. It is totally meaningless, full of froth, and with a kind of spurious gentility that we have come to associate with her.

Mr. Ashton

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to look at Tuesday's newspaper reports in which the right hon. Lady said that she had been unfairly treated over her statments on immigration? Does my right hon. Friend feel that he should have some sympathy with her because, since 1959, her majority at Finchley has dropped from 16,000 to 3,900, and last year in the Greater London Council elections the National Front won more votes in Finchley than it did in Paddington, Vauxhall or Lambeth?

The Prime Minister

I read that the right hon. Lady said that she was not going to be bullied or intimidated about these matters.

Mrs. Thatcher

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

The role of shrinking violet is not one that I would really associate with her. On the general proposition, I feel there is no need to have any real sympathy for the right hon. Lady. The Government side of the House is attacked consistently by that house organ of the Tory Party, the Daily Mail. The only difference between us and the right hon. Lady is that we do not whine when we are attacked.

Mr. Anthony Grant

Will the Prime Minister find time today to compliment the Metropolitan Police Commisisoner on his wise decision to ban the National Front march, therfore ensuring that liberty for the many is not fouled up by licence for the few?

The Prime Minister

The decision was taken, as the hon. Gentleman says, by the Commissioner. It is supported by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in his capacity as Home Secretary. I regret the need for the decision, but I am certain that it was right and I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that calm will soon return to our streets, so that lawful processions can be held without the risk of violence, but I fear that that will take some time. In the meantime, I am certain—I know that the Commissioner and others share this view—that our streets must be kept safe for innocent passers-by and users to walk through without danger from hooligans or any others who want to upset the peace.

Q2. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for Thursday 23rd February 1978.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice).

Mr. Temple-Morris

The Prime Minister will appreciate the grave implications of the Rhodesian problem. I ask him a straight question. If the internal settlement, based upon one man, one vote, becomes successful—and there is every indication that it will—will the Government end their indecision and give a lead to the international community in backing that settlement?

The Prime Minister

I appreciate the way in which the hon. Gentleman puts the point. We have always taken the view that a successful precondition was one man, one vote, in Rhodesia. Therefore, clearly any settlement based genuinely on that would be welcome to Her Majesty's Government. However, in addition to that, and in the light of developments since the Six Principles were first laid down, we have now outside Rhodesia large armed guerrilla forces—patriotic forces, as they are called—under the control of experienced leaders of Rhodesian Africans.

If there is to be a final settlement in Zimbabwe, I think that everybody—Bishop Muzorewa, the Rev. N. Sithole and any other leader in Rhodesia, such as Mr. Smith—should endeavour to be involved in the settlement. That will be the best way for an independent Zimbabwe to go forward. I do not believe that Mr. Nkomo or Mr. Mugabe can claim sole rights. They must take their place—they must be allowed to take their place—and fight any election that is conducted on the basis of one man, one vote. They can expect no more than that, but no less.

Mr. James Lamond

Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity today to reconsider the answers that he gave on Tuesday to questions about disarmament and the neutron bomb, when he appeared to depart slightly from his normal constructive role in international affairs and to be somewhat at variance with the Secretary of State for Defence, who understood that those of us who are anxious about the neutron bomb do not say that its explosive power is greater than any existing weapon but that because it can be used in a limited area it reduces the threshold of nuclear war?

The Prime Minister

I dispute that. It seems that as long as the use of this weapon—I read the editorials this morning about the matter—remains under the control of Ministers, as this weapon would if it were ever developed, which it has not yet been, the threshold of nuclear war would not be lowered. It would still require a political decision before it could be used. That is an essential safeguard, and the correct safeguard. My hope is—I thought that I was being very constructive on Tuesday—that we can enter into negotiations in a genuine way on some of the dreadful weapons that are being developed, to try to reduce the threat to the world.

Mr. Emery

Following the Prime Minister's studied insults to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, will he realise that insult is no answer to fact? Will he please answer a straight question? Do his Government consider that it is important to give very large redundancy payments to those who are redundant because they refuse to work when contracts are available to them?

The Prime Minister

I promise the hon. Gentleman that my insults were not studied. They would have been far better than that if they had been. I came here in perfect good humour. I stand here in all innocence, and I am basely attacked from the moment that I get to the Dispatch Box.

The redundancy Acts are clear on the compensation that should be paid, and the Acts must be carried out. I repeat what I have often said to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. If she has these questions lying so close to her heart, why does she not adopt the proper course for the Leader of the Opposition and table a Question to me, as she is entitled to do, to which she will get a considered answer?